Putin cracks down on rallies as thousands take to the streets in Russia to protest Ukraine invasion

Protests also took place in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Vladimir Putin’s home city of St Petersburg

Joe Middleton
Friday 25 February 2022 07:22
Russians protest in Yekaterinburg against Ukraine attack

Vladimir Putin tonight cracked down on demonstrations that have swept cities in Russia to protest against the country’s bloody invasion of Ukraine.

Rallies took place in cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, chanting slogans such as “No to war!” and holding up makeshift signs, in open defiance of the Russian president.

Police were swift to clamp down on the protests and have so far arrested 1,667 people at protests in 53 cities, the OVD-Info rights monitor, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies said.

Pictures and footage showed officers grabbing and pulling activists away from the anti-war events, in a country that rarely sees open dissent aimed at Putin.

Prominent Moscow-based activist Marina Litvinovich said she had been detained by authorities after calling for anti-war protests earlier on Thursday. She wrote on Telegram: “I was detained on my way out of the house.”

Footage posted to social media on Thursday afternoon showed hundreds gathering in Putin’s home city of St Petersburg.

Police officers detain a woman during a protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine in Moscow,

Officers gather near demonstrators during another anti-war protest in St Petersburg

Yekaterina Kuznetsova, 40-year-old engineer who joined the demonstration in St Petersburg, said: “This is the most shameful and terrible day in my life.

“I even was not able to go to work. My country is an aggressor. I hate Putin. What else should be done to make people open their eyes?”

Hundreds gathered in Russian city to condemn the unprovoked attack

People in Times Square protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Dissent in Russia on Thursday also came from a number of mainstream figures such as Ivan Urgant, one of Russia’s most famous television comedians, who wrote on Instagram: “Fear and Pain. NO TO WAR.”

Maxim Galkin, a television presenter and singer, said: “I’ve been in touch with my relatives and friends from Ukraine since morning! I can’t explain in words what I feel! How is this possible! No war can be justified! No to war!”

Others included Fedor Smolov, a footballer for Russia’s national soccer team, Russia’s former star tennis player Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Police officers detain a man holding a placard reading “No war” during a protest at Pushkinskaya Square, in Moscow

Yelena Kovalskaya, director of a state-funded Moscow theater, announced on Facebook she was quitting her job, saying “it’s impossible to work for a killer and get paid by him.”

The protests came despite the country’s Investigative Committee issuing a warning on Thursday afternoon reminding Russians that unauthorised protests are against the law.

Protests have also erupted in major cities around Europe such as London, Madrid and Rome, to rail against a conflict that has already caused the deaths of dozens of people.

In London, activists gathered outside Downing Street to sign the Ukrainian national anthem and chanted: “Stop Putin. Stop the war”, and “Ukraine is not Russia”.

Russian police officers hold Ukrainian pop singer Olga Romanovskaya during a protest at Pushkinskaya Square

People also held up placards with images of Mr Putin saying “terrorist”, “killer”, and “Putin! Get out of Ukraine”.

Natalia Ravlyuk, a volunteer who helped organise the protest, said: “We want the toughest sanctions and total isolation of Russia now.”

She said: “We feel very angry, we feel very anxious and we feel betrayed by democratic states because we have been talking about this war for eight years.

“They just need to wake up and stop Putin now.”

Activists gathered outside Downing Street in central London on Thursday

Olga Gevorkyan, 30, who has been in the UK for around a year, said that her entire family and all her friends are still at home in the northern Ukraine near to the Belarusian border.

Growing tearful, she said: “I am crying since this morning. I’m afraid to lose contact with them because it could happen any day.

“I have everyone - my family, my close friends, my heart and soul is there.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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